Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Fellow Methodist* Prays for the United Methodist General Conference

Today, Wednesday, April 23 the General Conference of the United Methodist Church begins. The General Conference convenes every four years and serves as the denominations top policy-making organization. In fact, according to church law, only the General Conference (i.e., no other individual, including any bishops, or group) has the authority to speak for the denomination. For information on the UM General Conference click here.

This year there are a number of interesting and not a few significant resolutions coming before the delegates. Some of those resolutions may shape the direction of the denomination for years to come. Others may affect the relationships the UMC has with other denominations. As the largest denomination in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition, this General Conference could have some affect upon all of the denominational members of the World Methodist Council, including the Church of the Nazarene.

Two issues being discussed this year are worth mentioning in this post: First, various resolutions are being brought concerning the ongoing debate over homosexuality. In fact, according to my OSL brother, the Rev'd. Sky Lowe-McCraken, nearly 950 of the over 1500 petitions of legislation deal with some aspect of the homosexual debate. Thus far, the UMC has consistently maintained that "Homosexual persons . . . are individuals of sacred worth" (Book of Discipline, par. 161, G.), on the one hand, but, on the other hand, they have consistently maintained that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" (par. 304.3).

The second issue deals with whether the U.S. church will become a central conference. If it does, it will keep the African and European United Methodists from voting at future (U.S.) General Conferences. If it does not become a separate central conference, then the voice of Africa will still be heard, and their votes will carry much weight. (From my perspective, if the African United Methodists remain a part of this General Conference, it could save the United Methodists from possibly experiencing the kind of splits that The Episcopal Church has experienced. In their case, the "orthodox" Anglicans sought oversight from Anglicans from the global South.)

One can track all of the legislation of interest by clicking here.

I will be watching the UM news, and perhaps issuing a few comments/reflections during the week of and the week following the General Conference. - It is my sincere prayer that the God of all wisdom will guide the delegates in all of the decisions that will be made. Further, it is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon the United Methodists afresh and anew, in order that God would be glorified in and through them.

Please join with me in a prayer for our sisters and brothers at the UM General Conference. - The following prayer was suggested by the Abbot of the Order of St. Luke, the Rev'd. Dr. Mark Stamm. It is adapted from a collect "For a Church Convention" in the Book of Common Prayer (255):

Almighty and everlasting Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever: Bless, we pray, with his grace and presence, the clergy and laity delegates, the bishops, and all the faithful assembled in your Name at (the United Methodist) General Conference, that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly discipline, may fulfill all the mind of him who loved it and gave himself for it, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


*I know that some of my Nazarene colleagues would prefer to distance themselves from Methodism. However, my self-identification as a Methodist is based on a number of factors, which could require an entire post (or series of posts). For now, suffice it to say that I understand the Church of the Nazarene to be a Wesleyan-holiness branch of Methodism.


Anonymous said...

As a lay person in the UMC, I appreciate your respect and interest of the Methodist tradition. As a fellow OSL, I find it heartening to find A minister in The Church of the Nazarene who has good taste in liturgy.

Todd Stepp said...

Thank you for your comments above.

Please note that it is not merely a respect and interest of the Methodist tradition, but rather I understand my denomination to be very much a part of the Methodist tradition. (Perhaps you were referring more specifically to the UM tradition.)

In any case, thank you for your comments. And it is good to hear from another OSLer!